February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; however, it is largely preventable. The first step toward heart health is understanding your risk of heart disease. Here are the ABCs of heart disease:
- Assess Your Risk: Consult with your practitioner to see if you are at risk. Your risk of developing heart disease is higher if you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are overweight or obese, have prediabetes or diabetes, smoke, and/or have a family history of heart disease.
- Check Your Blood Pressure: Blood pressure is the amount of force blood is exerting on the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. The reading is made up of two numbers, systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number). Your blood pressure is considered elevated when you have a reading of 140/90 mm Hg or higher. Ensure you are getting adequate sleep, managing your stress levels, and engaging in regular exercise.
- Manage Your Cholesterol: Eat heart-healthy meals. Reduce your intake of refined/processed carbohydrates; increase your intake of greens, vegetables, whole fruit, quality proteins (dairy products and meats from pasture-raised/grass-fed animals), and healthy fats (olive/coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as wild-caught fish and eggs). Decrease your salt intake by using herbs, spices, or citrus instead.
- Manage Your Diabetes: Manage your blood glucose levels, maintain a healthy weight, eat well, and lower your blood sugar with exercise.
- Exercise: Incorporate physical activity into your every day. It is recommended that individuals participate in one of the following: 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week (for example, 30 minutes 5 days a week), 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week (for example, 25 minutes 3 days a week), or a combination of both moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activity.
Lower your chance of developing heart disease by decreasing the risk factors that are in your control. Consult with your healthcare provider to determine which lifestyle changes will have the biggest impact on your personal health.
Updated Article by Alex Gawel – February 1, 2023
Original Article by Kim Chin – February 1, 2021
About the Author:
Kim Chin received her B.S. in Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She then became a Technical Recruiter but realized health and wellness was her passion. She decided to go back and do her Dietetic Internship with Wellness Workdays with a focus on worksite wellness and health promotion. She has been a Registered Dietitian for a few years and is a major foodie; you can follow her @dietichin (get it? A play on Dietitian + her last name: Chin). You can find her trying out new restaurants, running along the Embarcadero in San Francisco, or hiking with her pup, Basil.